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You love all words that devour, O deceitful tongue. — Psalms 52:4 Rogue slab in the slaughterhouse of the mouth, you love all words that whistle like bombs through the delphinium sky. O tongue that sucks honey from the vinegar bush—demagogue, street preacher, cutpurse at the afternoon hanging—break my neck a thousand times till I remember the digits of your prime number. Drunk tongue, warling, malt-mad forger in the bone orchard, give me your traitor’s code, so I can whistle my psalm through the sinworm night. Tongue of rough bread, blues tongue, wolf tongue. Kiss me, deceitful mouth, smash my curtain of skin, devour the air wild with bees, swallow their wings, make me a bloody hive for their bitter queen.
From On the Street of Divine Love: New and Selected Poems (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2014). Included in Vox Populi by permission of the author and publisher.
Copyright 2014 Barbara Hamby
Barbara Hamby was born in New Orleans and raised in Honolulu. She is the author of seven books of poems, most recently Holoholo (Pitt, 2021). She has also edited an anthology of poems, Seriously Funny (Georgia, 2009), with her husband David Kirby. She teaches at Florida State University where she is Distinguished University Scholar.
Inimitable, wild, fabulous vocabulary rich — what a JOY to read it, then read it again — but aloud!
Yes! I love Barbara Hamby’s poems out loud!
Barbara is brilliant, isn’t she?
Wowza, what a poem!
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